James Patterson

"The Jester"

(Reviewed by Cindy Lynn Speer MAR 01, 2003)

But as I held Sophie that night, something told me I could no longer live like this. The rage that burned in my heart from the day’s horror was killing me. There would always be another Norcross, another tax levied upon us. Or another Alo...one day, the boy strung up on that wheel could be our own.

The people of Veille de Pere are bound to the will and whim of a cruel liege lord, Baldwin of Treille. When Norcross, Baldwin’s chatelaine, enters the village Hugh De Luc’s first thoughts are for his wife...for this story takes place in the darkest of the dark ages, where a knight may rape and murder, and no one can stop him. Indeed as this time again proves, no one stops Norcross from raping the daughter of the miller and murdering his son -- the miller’s punishment for allowing his oldest son to follow the rousing call of Peter the Hermit, who gathers the poor to form an army to join in the crusade.

Read excerptRaised by goliards, (think troubadours) Hugh thought his wandering days were over. He's settled into running the tavern he and his wife inherited from her father, but the Crusade promises much -- riches beyond belief, lands, and most of all for people like Hugh, their freedom. After Norcross’s and his men’s treatment of his fellow villagers, Hugh burns for the need to reach for this promise of freedom, and so joins another army being raised to fight in the Crusades. The road to the Holy Land is long...and it does not give him what he dreamed of. He deserts the army after a particularly bad slaughter, bringing home with him a few trinkets -- a perfume box for his beloved wife Sophie, a ruby studded cross, and a heavy staff he uses for walking. When he finally makes his way home, his wife is not what greets him, instead he finds a burned out shell that used to be his tavern, and news that his infant son is murdered, his wife taken away, and probably dead. Even though the villagers are sure Sophie could not have survived the horrors she lived through on that night, Hugh cannot give up the hope that she still breathes. He figures the marauders have to be Baldwin's men, so he heads for Treille. After a fight with a boar leaves him injured in the forest, he meets the beautiful lady Emilie, who impressed by his love for his wife offers him a pretext guaranteed to gain him entree in Baldwin’s court: to become a Jester.

And so Hugh De Luc, dressed in a Jester’s motley, begins the hunt for his wife. Little does he know that he possesses one of the greatest treasures...a treasure that many are willing to kill to possess...as a madman sends a vicious group of men after the Holy relics, and Hugh De Luc, out of desperation, becomes the leader of a most unlikely army.

It would not be proper to compare this novel with James Patterson's others. It's a completely different offering; the writer's stretch their talents in an entirely new direction. I couldn't resist the wonderful premise of a man pretending to be a Jester to infiltrate a royal court. I didn't know how he'd pull it off, but much to my pleasant surprise, I am extremely impressed with this book... it is tightly written, and fast paced, this book contains all of the elements of a truly good adventure novel. In Hugh De Luc, you have the epitome of all the great medieval heroes. For example, you can see a Robin Hood’s determination to avenge the wrongs done to the people he loves and those around him in Hugh’s actions.

There is also the perfect amount of camaraderie, whether it’s the sarcastic jibes between the men, or the moments where people join the fight, and their reasons, it is the type of interaction between humans that I love to see. I get tired of the cheap dramas that internal conflicts between the people on the "good" side have among themselves...when well done, they can add something, but when done just for the sake of drama, become irritating. This book doesn’t have that...there is an acceptance that these people have for each other, a loyalty that makes the book all the more pleasurable to read.

While I think that deep medievalists may find Emilie just slightly advanced for the time, I think it works well, and that Patterson and Gross couch it well enough that not only does it come off, but you wouldn't have Emilie any other way. Emilie's thoughts about equality between the classes may seem out of place for a gently reared girl, as is her strong independence and unimpeachable code of honor, but it makes her very admirable, as does her love for Hugh, despite his low birth.

The authors also show the savagery of man -- whether it’s on the battlefields of the Crusades, or in the town square, the authors do a good job of both painting the times accurately, while making the antagonists truly disgusting. Hugh drives this point home well. He begins the chapter by saying "Our powerlessness was so obvious it was shameful to me..." remarking upon the fact that Norcross and his bullies are able to do anything...and he and his fellow villagers are too afraid of loosing what little they have to do anything about it. No matter how they beg and grovel, the knights continue with their heartless sport...drowning a little boy in the process. Somehow such scenes are more heart breaking than the scenes with the horrifying Tafurs, who commit horrible murders in God's name.

It is also fun to see Hugh perform as a jester. He paints himself into just as many corners with his jokes as he does when he’s sneaking around, but in all cases he manages to duck out of the worse of the trouble, triumphant.

For some reason I want to compare this book more to my very favorite movies than to other books...perhaps it is the highly visual nature of the narrative, but I keep wanting to parallel it to movies such as The Flame and The Arrow and Errol Flynn’s Adventure of Robin Hood. It has that quality to it...the rich satisfaction of all the parts coming together to create a remarkable and fulfilling read.

  • Amazon readers rating:from 276 reviews

Read a chapter excerpt from The Jester at MostlyFiction.com

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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)



The Women's Murder Club series:

Featuring Alex Cross:

Featuring Detective Michael Bennett:

Daniel X:

Maximum Ride:

More Teen Sci-Fi:

Middle School series:




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About the Author:

James PattersonJames Patterson is one of the top-selling novelists in the world today. His debut novel, The Thomas Berryman Number, won the Edgar Award for the best first mystery novel. It was published by Little, Brown in 1976 when he was just twenty-seven years old, after being turned down by more than two dozen other publishers.

He has since written a string of major national bestsellers that includes the seven books in the series featuring detective/psychologist Alex Cross and the three novels in the "Women's Murder Club" series. (See review.) And last summer's Long Island Murder mystery, The Beach House.

Patterson grew up in Newburgh, New York. He graduated summa cum laude with a B.A. in English from Manhattan College and summa cum laude with an M.A. in English from Vanderbilt University.

James Patterson lives in Palm Beach County, Florida, with his wife and their son.

Andrew Gross has done a lot of research for James Patterson's previous novels and was co-author for James Patterson's novel 2nd Chance. He lives with his wife, Lynn, and their three children in Westchester County, New York.
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